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New Toledo Ordinance Bans Source of Rental Income Discrimination

Compliance Tips for Landlords and Property Managers

Kaitlin L. Brummel and Scott A. Johnson

black white and red furnished apartments for rent sign   In December 2020, by an eight to four vote, Toledo City Council members repealed Toledo Municipal Code Chapter 554, entitled “Discrimination Prohibited” and replaced it with a new chapter that adds “source of income” as a “protected class.”  Beginning April 14, 2021, Toledo landlords may no longer deny a prospective tenant’s application due to his or her Section 8 or other federal housing voucher. 

Code Language           

   The new Toledo code provision prohibiting discrimination on the basis of source of income includes two important changes from the prior version of the antidiscrimination law.  First, the new law adds source of income to the list of reasons that it is unlawful to treat an individual differently from others (i.e., a protected class).  The new law includes Section 8 and other forms of governmental rent subsidies and rent assistance within the definition of source of income. 

   Second, establishing discrimination under the prior version of the law required a showing that an individual’s status as a member of a protected class is the only reason for their being treated differently.  Under the new version of the law, establishing discrimination only requires that an individual’s status in a protected class is a factor leading to their disparate treatment.  In other words, violation of Toledo’s antidiscrimination law no longer requires that an individual’s status in a protected class be established as the sole reason for the discrimination.    

   As a result of this new law, it will now be unlawful to refuse housing to a prospective Section 8 tenant, or anyone else receiving governmental assistance, if the fact that the prospective tenant receives such governmental assistance plays any role in the decision.  

  Excerpts from the old and new versions of the Ordinance are provided below for textual comparison. 

Pros and Cons of the New Ordinance

   The obvious goal of the new Ordinance is to prevent prospective tenants, who use vouchers to pay rent but otherwise meet all renting criteria, from being denied housing based on their non-traditional sources of income.  Some believe that a lack of income protection laws leads to geographically concentrated poverty—a disservice to society’s most vulnerable groups. Some landlords, for example, include language in their property listings that warns voucher applicants not to apply, i.e. “No Section 8 Tenants.”  Under the new Ordinance, such practice will be illegal.

   Several Toledo landlords and real estate groups have spoken out against the new Ordinance citing their personal bad experiences with tenants who receive housing assistance. Their chief complaints do not stem from concern over reliable rent payments, but, rather, poor track records for property maintenance and waste.  Often in these circumstances, landlords have found themselves covering the costs of tenants’ significant property damages with no recourse.

Tips for Compliance

   A violation of the new Ordinance may result in a misdemeanor of the first degree. It is imperative that landlords and property managers cease any differential treatment of Section 8 or other similarly situated rental applicants. Especially considering the now-broadened definition of discrimination, landlords and property managers should: (a) not allow source of income to influence their tenant selection process and (b) do everything possible to avoid the appearance that source of income played a role in their decision. Bear in mind the following:

   Should you have any questions pertaining to the new ordinance, please contact Ms. Brummel, Mr. Johnson or one of the other attorneys in our Real Estate Law Practice Group.

Old Ordinance

Excerpt from Current Ordinance (effective until April 14, 2021):  554.03. Prohibited real estate discrimination 

Bolded Ordinance text provided for emphasis.

New Ordinance

Excerpt from New Ordinance (Effective April 14, 2021):  554.03. Prohibited real estate discrimination. 

(b)        No person selling or renting real property shall publish, circulate, issue or display, or cause to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind relating to the sale, rental or leasing of real property which indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on Protected Class


(h) As used in this Section source of income discrimination shall include refusal to cooperate in the process of accepting section 8 housing choice voucher assistance or payments from other rental assistance programs, including but not limited to refusal to cooperate in housing quality standards inspections by the housing authority. 

Bolded Ordinance text provided for emphasis.



   The article in this publication has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.